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Holiday Gift Guide 2014 – For Him, For Her, For the Kids

Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be over, but retailers both online and offline are running deals throughout December! Many brands contacted me about reviewing their products for the holiday season, but I only agreed to work with the few who resonated most with me and my family. There are a few other things I purchased myself that I think are worth including here, too, and I’ll make sure you know which is which. Here’s what’s on my holiday gift list this year:

Mantry

Mantry Crates

Mantry, “the modern man’s pantry,” is a monthly American food subscription service introduced to me by team member Reggie, who offered to send me a crate to try. Tom loves food and loves to cook, so I was happy to accept the offer. He couldn’t have been happier with the Campfire Cookout box: sausage, bacon – what’s not to love? Other box themes have been seafood, coffee, and craft beer. If you know a man who loves to cook, a Mantry subscription might be a good call. Of course, in the interest of equality, I don’t think you have to be a man to appreciate the monthly food selections. [click to continue…]

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In the quest to discover the root of at least one of my physical problems, I had a colonoscopy yesterday, Tuesday. Monday, prep day, was my birthday. Worst birthday since the day I was born, since I almost died of pneumonia that day. But since my abdominal pain ended up not being my ovaries, I’ve been seeking gastroenterological care and hitting dead ends with the CT scans, the ultrasounds, and the x-rays – I said sure, let’s do another colonoscopy.

It was my third colonoscopy. and I just turned 36. (Never had GI problems before I had TJ. I love him so much, but he sure messed up my innards.) My previous colonoscopy was only two years ago, but the NP at my primary doc’s office told me her husband has a colonoscopy every year, and they always find new polyps when they go in.

But before I get to my results, let me regale the story of the night of my birthday.

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World of Warcraft | Fandom Friday

It’s no secret that I love playing World of Warcraft. It’s even in my Twitter bio. This week, I’d like to geek out about WoW because the next expansion gets released next week: Warlords of Draenor.

Warlords of Draenor is Coming

 

My guild, Sapere Aude, is getting all exciting about playing together. It’s been a really long time since we’ve had new content that took more than a few hours to complete. The pre-patch event with the coming of the Iron Horde has been a small diversion that adds some flavor and anticipation, but we’re waiting for the big event!

Of course, my birthday falls only a few days after release day, and one of my gaming groups on Polyvore is running a “birthday presents” contest in celebration of the group owner’s birthday today, so I decided on some WoW gifts I wouldn’t mind getting.
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I’ve had a few friends suggest the game Quandary to me, but for whatever reason, I never sat down and checked it out until The Mission List selected me to write a sponsored post about it. Quandary is a free online game targeted for kids ages 8-14 to help them learn how to recognize ethical issues and deal with challenging situations in their own lives, something especially important for kids on the autism spectrum, but relevant to anyone. That may not sound like a lot of fun at first blush, but the cool part is that players “lead a new human colony on a distant planet. They must make difficult decisions in which there are no clear right or wrong answers but important consequences – to themselves, to others in the colony and to the planet Braxos.” As a player, you are the captain of Braxos, and therefore responsible for making decisions (along with the aid of a grand council back on Earth) that will affect the lives of everyone in your new civilization.

Quandary Opening Screenshot

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The Mostly Good News Day

After a stressful few weeks of nail-biting, I met with the surgeon today to go over the results of the biopsy I had last week. The tests showed that the tissue was benign! I was so relieved, and Tom was, too. (I bet my pulse went back to something more normal than the 106 the nurse measured when she took my blood pressure.)

The Test Results Were Benign!

 

This good news was tempered by the surgeon’s concern about the shape and firmness of the mass in my breast. He said that normal cysts are generally pretty round with well-defined edges. My lump is not. It’s rather irregular and hard to the touch. He said we had three options:
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I Got Stabbed Twice in the Chest for Some Chocolate

Just to be clear, I was not the victim of a violent crime. What I had done to me on Friday was a stereotactic biopsy of my right breast after my abnormal mammogram the previous week. This is what I needed to get done for my second opinion from the surgeon, who I still have not met.

A stereotactic biopsy is considered a non-invasive procedure (more on that later) in which they compress your breast with the mammography machine before using a needle to take samples of the suspicious tissue so they can send these samples to the lab for testing. I suppose it’s less invasive than going in surgically and cutting out a chunk of your breast to see what’s going on in there, but they are still jabbing a needle into your breast. If you’ve ever been punched in the boob, you can sympathize with what I will be describing here.

I’d asked my mom if she would drive me, and she arrived with my grandma and my sister-in-law Meghan in tow. They were to be my entourage for the event. All of the people at the imaging place thought this was great that I had so much support. (If they only knew about all my Facebook well wishers!)

I got a more stylish half-gown this time.

Half-Gown Selfie Before My Biopsy

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I’m a Polyvore Addict | Fandom Friday

Once I started playing around on Polyvore, it was already too late. Suddenly, I could create beautiful things, when once I had a terrible time making anything visual that looked anywhere near the way I wanted it to look in my head. I’ve made some sets I’m really proud of. Here, let me share some of them with you:

Awkward Anna | Frozen

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My First Mammogram: Lumpy and Bumpy

There’s a lump in my breast. There’s a lump. in. my. breast.

This is a thought that has been plaguing my mind for the last few weeks. I wanted to schedule my appointment to see my GYN as soon as I got back from the Type-A Parent Conference in Atlanta, but circumstances conspired to keep this from happening. But I finally called last week two weeks ago after bursting into tears and telling my husband about it, and my appointment was this morning last Thursday.

Let me tell you how much it sucks to see all of the Breast Cancer Awareness Month stuff decorating your gynecologist’s office when you’re afraid that’s what you might have.

While I do have a “primary” doctor at the practice, I prefer to see one of the FNP-BCs in the practice. Bonnie was really great with me, and sent orders over to Capital Imaging so I could call and schedule an appointment for My First MammogramTM and a diagnostic ultrasound. Since my birthday next month puts me closer to 40 than 30, she figured it’s not a bad idea to get a baseline mammogram anyways, and the ultrasound just to be sure that nothing’s hiding in there. She said my breast tissue is fibrocystic, especially on the right, where I had my concerns, so the ultrasound would help see through what was normal to find anything that might be abnormal.

When I got home, I called the imaging place, and the woman on the end of the line apologized because she didn’t have any openings until Monday. But then she asked me to hold, and when she came back, she said, “Can you come in now?” I said yes and jumped back into the van.

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Anger is Anxiety is Anger is Depression

You find yourself shaking. Physically shaking. What’s going to happen? What are the consequences? Should you say something? Maybe you should rehearse that conversation in your head a few more times. Prepare for every possible response you can think of. Know how you’re going to handle every possibility. It’s nerve-wracking. You can’t screw this up. It’s important to you. If only your heart would stop racing…

Sound familiar?

Anger = Anxiety = Anger = Depression

One of the things I’ve discussed with my psychiatrist over the years is that repressed anger can manifest as either anxiety or depression. Or both. I think Yoda had something to say about this path leading to the Dark Side, too.

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Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson | Fandom Friday

As an attempt to “get my geek on” more often on my blog, I’m starting a feature called Fandom Friday, which let’s me share all of the things I love with my readers for no other reason than the sheer joy of it. (It’s also an excuse to legitimize the time I spend on Polyvore.) My first Fandom Friday feature here is dedicated to the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson.

The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

My intent for Fandom Friday is not to spoil anything for people who are unfamiliar with the material. I’ll stick primarily to comments that could be found on book covers and in reviews by critics. With that in mind…

Mistborn Features an Amazing Female Protagonist

I almost wrote that Mistborn features a strong female protagonist, but the adjective felt wrong. As someone who believes in feminism, I understand there is a tendency to look for “strong” female characters who are pretty unflappable. What I like about Vin, our heroine in Mistborn, is that she is a flawed character. She is a powerful woman, but she has baggage from a terrible childhood in this dystopian society she grew up in. She is unsure of herself, has bouts of depression, and has a lot of the same problems you might expect from a 17 year old girl living among men and boys. And of course, there’s her mark and love interest, Elend Venture. Yes, I said mark. Did I mention she starts out as a con artist? But none of the things that might be construed as weaknesses detract from her wholeness as a character. Instead, they make her three-dimensional, which can be difficult to accomplish in a fantasy series with an ensemble cast.

Allomancy: An Original System of Magic

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